"Papa explains the war like this: When the elephants dance, the chickens must be careful.' The great beasts, as they circle one another, shaking the trees and trumpeting loudly, are the Amerikanos and the Japanese as they fight. And our Philippine Islands? We are the small chickens."
Once in a great while comes a storyteller who can illuminate worlds large and small, magical and true to life. When the Elephants Dance introduces us to the incandescent voice of Tess Uriza Holthe, who sets her remarkable first novel in the waning days of World War II, as the Japanese and the Americans engage in a fierce battle for possession of the Philippine Islands. The Karangalan family and their neighbors huddle for survival in the cellar of a house a few miles from Manila. Outside the safety of their little refuge the war rages on---fiery bombs torch the beautiful Filipino countryside, Japanese soldiers round up and interrogate innocent people, and from the hills guerillas wage a desperate campaign against the enemy. Inside the cellar, these men, women, and children put their hopes and dreams on hold as they wait out the war, only emerging to look for food, water, and medicine.
Through the eyes of three narrators, thirteen-year-old Alejandro Karangalan, his spirited older sister Isabelle, and Domingo, a passionate guerilla commander, we see how ordinary people must learn to live in the midst of extraordinary uncertainty, how they must find hope for survival where none seems to exist. They find this hope in the dramatic history of the Philippine Islands and the passion and bravery of its people. Crowded together in the cellar, the Karangalans and their friends and neighbors tell magical stories to one another based on Filipino myth and legend to fuel their courage, pass the time, and teach important lessons. The group is held spellbound by these stories, which feature a dazzling array of ghosts, witches, supernatural creatures, and courageous Filipinos who changed the course of history with their actions. These profoundly moving stories transport the listeners from the chaos of the war around them and give them new resolve to fight on.
With When the Elephants Dance Holthe has not only written a gripping narrative of how Alejandro, Isabelle, Domingo and their community fight for survival, but a loving tribute to the magical realism that infuses Filipino culture. The stories shared by her characters are based on the same tales handed down to Holthe from her Filipino father and lola, her grandmother. This stunning debut novel is the first to celebrate in such richness and depth the spirit of the Filipino people and their fascinating story and marks the introduction of a talented new author who will join the ranks of writers such as Arundhati Roy, Manil Suri, and Amy Tan.
Grounded in Philippine myth and culture, the novel is filled with beautiful, allegorical stories told by the story's elders, who try to share wisdom and inspire their captive audience in the midst of gruesome violence..... this beautiful, harsh war story is no epic. Rather, Holthe presents personal, pointed fragments that clearly demonstrate history's cultural and personal fallout.
Booklist - Kristine Huntley
Holthe expertly weaves the mystical stories of the characters with the harsh reality of war to create a vivid, gorgeous novel.
Starred Review. This debut comes with a special endorsement from Crown Executive Editor Kristin Kiser, positioning it as the discovery of a great new voice. Holthe's story is set in the Philippines as the Japanese invade and features four people hiding in a cellar who tamp down their fears by telling mythic tales.
Starred Review. Romantic and patriotic heroes fill this WWII-set debut; a remarkably rich story about a disparate group of Filipinos thrown together in their struggle to survive the Japanese occupation. . . . A well-orchestrated chorus of voices that should strike a chord with many.
Kevin Baker, author of Dreamland When the Elephants Dance is a moving and vivid tribute to the power of love, hope, and storytelling during a time of crisis.
Lisa Huang Fleischman, author of Dream of the Walled City
A magical and powerful tale of a makeshift family of villagers, trying to survive by courage and imagination during Japan's brutal occupation of the Philippines in World War II---a part of history we always need to remember.
Jacqueline Park, author of The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi When the Elephants Dance is a fascinating journey into what is, for most of us, unknown territory. Tess Uriza Holthe takes us into the heart of the Philippine struggle for freedom with its heroes, its turncoats, its brutality, and the poetry of its folklore.
Laurie Fox, author of My Sister from the Black Lagoon
In the same breath sensual and political, urgent and transporting, Hothe's brave novel tantalizes as it inspires.
Peter Moore Smith, author of Raveling
When the Elephants Dance is far more than a beautifully written, emotionally moving, and searing description of what it's like to survive a war, it is an important artifact, within which is preserved the history and poetry of a culture. Its images, characters, and stories will remain with you forever.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by BabyGirl_Bookluvr92 I loved it This book is awesome and anyone who doesn't like it, just don't know what they're reading and how true and realistic this is.
Rated of 5
by Nathan Rafael When the Editors Stumble While I found the subject matter of Tess Uriza Holthe's novel, When the Elephants Dance, compelling and engaging, I cannot say the same for her writing skills. Overwrought and flat, her narrative drags down what could have been a page-turner to a... Read More
Rated of 5
this is the single most stupidest boring book in the world. never let anyone be subjected to this boring book. NEVER
Rated of 5
So0o0o boring...god help me i have to read 100 more pages..TONIGHT....
Rated of 5
im in ninth grade, this book is by far one of the best i have ever read
Rated of 5
by Cheryl Lingbanan, UCSC
I read the book 3 years ago and I can still say that this is my favorite book ever...
I can still remember the first time I read the novel...I laughed, I cried... The time and setting was described beautifully. Some of the events and... Read More
Utterly compelling and impressively detailed - dramatically recounts the story behind the Bataan Death March and the realities of survival in a Japanese prison camp. A true-to-life narrative as intelligently orchestrated and satisfying as the raid that ultimately liberated these men."
These are 2 of the 5 readalike suggestions for When The Elephants Dance. Members have full access to all readalikes. If you are a member, please login. To find out more about membership, click here.
Oldest romance writer in the world dies aged 105. Books #124 and #125 to be published next year(Dec 10 2013) Ida Pollock, author of more than 120 books, and believed to be the world's oldest romantic novelist, has died at the age of 105.